Kevin McHale: Basketball's Lousiest Executive Would Be a Winner On TV

Robert Kleeman@@RobertKleemanSenior Analyst IJuly 21, 2009

FALLS CHURCH, VA - OCTOBER 31:  Former Boston Celtics player Kevin McHale (C) waves as he leaves Red Auerbach's graveside service at King David Memorial Cemetery October 31, 2006 in Falls Church, Virginia. Auerbach, who led the Boston Celtics to 16 NBA championships as either coach, general manager or club president, died October 28 at the age of 89.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

It is only fitting that the Minnesota Timberwolves let Kevin McHale go after he proved useful.

After 13-plus dreadful years as one of the worst executives in sports history, the former NBA icon took the team's reigns from ousted coach Randy Wittman and did a respectable job—highlighted by an improbable 10-4 record in January.

The perpetual lottery lover might have been better during the stretch run with a healthy Al Jefferson.

The Timberwolves seem to follow an odd law: if something goes right—landing Ricky Rubio with the fifth pick like the front office wanted—find a way to kill the success like you're Darth Vader's lawyer.

His first and only great decision as the steward of Minnesota's pro basketball loser was using the fifth pick in 1995 NBA Draft on high school phenom Kevin Garnett.

McHale will forever be known as the guy who could not build a consistent winner around the Hall of Fame-bound forward.

Say what you will about Garnett's pre-Boston reputation as a fourth-quarter choke artist incapable of taking over big games.

Most of the T-Wolves humiliating failures should rest on McHale's broad, far-too-relaxed shoulders.

He finally surrounded Garnett with enough talent to compete for an NBA title—by sending him to Boston to pair with Ray Allen and Paul Pierce.

The Farragut Academy product transformed a Beantown roster with many players previously regarded as average defenders into a defensive juggernaut.

He brought passion and a ferocious, infectious, winning attitude to a proud franchise with a championship itch 22 years in the making.

What did McHale do?

He once lured Sam Cassell to Minnesota.

It was interesting while it lasted. That team reached the Western Conference Finals once.

McHale also handed scoring scrub Wally Szczerbiak a six-year, $63 million extension. Would you give Wally World that kind of money, even if you had downed six tequila shots and a half-gallon of Everclear just before contract negotiations?

He traded Ray Allen for Stephon Marbury in the 1996 NBA Draft, not a bad move but a debatable one. I'll be nice and put that in the GM's rare win column.

He promised to sign Joe Smith to a multi-million dollar contract if he accepted three, one-year deals, skirting salary cap rules and earning a lot more than a "tsk tsk" from the league office in the process.

Was that bone-headed attempt at secrecy worth three draft picks, losing Smith for a year, and a $3.5 million fine?

The Timberwolves have needed a creative scorer at the two spot for years.

So, McHale inexplicably traded Brandon Roy for Randy Foye in the 2007 draft. He will never live that deal down.

Roy is a budding superstar who has already guided the former "Jail Blazers" out of the darkness and into an era that promises annual playoff success.

Foye averaged 16 points on an abysmal, mismatched roster last year and was traded to the Washington Wizards last month.

Then, McHale selected another creative scorer with star potential in O.J. Mayo...and traded him to the Memphis Grizzlies for Kevin Love.

Let's recap: an exciting, dynamic scorer who would have filled the team's glaring need, exchanged for Brad Miller Part II. Forget the other players involved in this deal. This was its crux.

Was McHale brain dead through all of this or did owner Glen Taylor, the embodiment of revolting, mandate that his top exec inflict misery on fans with little to cheer about in the first place?

The former Celtic was legend on the court. He was puke-worthy as a decision maker in a suit.

New GM David Kahn has a lot of work to do to clean up the pile of vomit McHale left behind.

In the wake of his dismissal as coach—which was ironically announced to the world via a Twitter from the player he never should have traded Mayo to get—McHale should come back to where he should have been all along.


His post-playing hoops career began in broadcasting and should have stayed there.

McHale was a natural analyst, delivering a classic blend of humor and poignant analysis. Even as a color commentator on the local level, he talked like he knew his stuff without hubris.

He won three championships with the Celtics, and is widely regarded as one of the craftiest low-post players in league history.

No one ever suspected McHale of overconfidence in his front office work. They just figured he didn't give a crap about doing the job the right way.

He seemed the type that would favor mid-day tee times over talent evaluation.

What he lacked in scouting prowess, he would make up for on T.V. with wit drowned in sarcasm.

Even as a player, he was the funniest guy in the gym.

"If I could look into the future, I wouldn't be sitting here talking to you doorknobs. I'd be out investing in the stock market," he once told reporters when asked of the Celtics prospects that season.

Timberwolves players enjoyed McHale's brief coaching stints because he employed a freewheeling, fun-loving system that encouraged even the hardest workers to let themselves be goofballs.

While such lax accountability would never produce a championship-level product on the court, it would work great alongside Mike Breen, Mike Tirico, Kevin Harlan, or Marv Albert.

Speaking of Breen, his point guard analyst is rumored as a top candidate for that vacant coaching slot in Minnesota.

Mark Jackson, as sensible and direct as he is enjoyable, would be a huge loss for ABC and ESPN NBA broadcasts.

However, couldn't you also picture McHale and Jeff Van Gundy together?

Fans might overdose on the pair's romance with self-deprecation, but it would pay off in the Conan O'Brien mold.

The duo would surely concoct something funnier than "keep cool my babies."

There was nothing funny about the slow and grinding way McHale teamed with Taylor to destroy the Timberwolves.

Any sensible NBA aficionado should give him a proverbial spanking and the middle finger for those 13 woebegone years.

Then, they should join me in recruiting him to the post-retirement area of basketball where he belongs.


As a general manager, he was the ultimate ignoramus.

He was more of a cancer to basketball than any players frequently blasted by sports columnists during his tenure in Minnesota.

As an analyst, his far-reaching failures would become joke butts.

Fans could remember him as a player extraordinaire instead of an executive nincompoop.

And, for the first time in a while, everyone could laugh with him instead of at him.

Wouldn't that be something?


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